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What non-Frank Herbert explanation is there for training solders in the use of slashing or stabbing weapons in an age of hand held laser projectile weapons?


marked as duplicate by SRM, kingledion, Aify, ZioByte, L.Dutch Jan 26 '18 at 8:30

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  1. Technology fails sometimes --- be prepared for when you can't hide behind a random storage case and shoot at your enemy like a coward!

  2. Your enemy won't always be content to hide behind random storage containers fifteen yards away from you, trying to plink you with their own lazer guns --- some may be creeping along the service conduits above your position, only to drop down behind you! Others may phase-shift right in front of you! Some's armour or even skin might eat your weak little lazer pellets for lunch as they come charging towards your position! You'll need something sharp and pointy for close in work.

  3. Some technology is just too finicky to be playing at Okay Corral --- just like shooting a lead bullet inside an airplane is a dumb idea, so might shooting a lazer gun inside a shuttle craft or on the bridge of a Starmada destroyer. Lots of computer & display terminals, input devices and so forth that took the IT guys ages and ages to cobble together, and you want to punch all that work full of lazer pellets!

  4. The sword is simply a more elegant weapon, a weapon of flowing motion and graceful warriors caught up in the Dance of Death, struggling to be the one remaining to bow at the end of the set.

  • $\begingroup$ I'll second this list. Especially the part about avoiding shoot outs in a spaceship. Putting a few platoons in fast, mobile power armour, give them a flechette gun for soft targets, a sword for hard targets, and let them loose either defending or boarding a space ship will quickly become a nasty, dangerous fight. Avoiding damage to critical systems would be critical. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke Jan 26 '18 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ @DanClarke, unless there's something unusual about the swords, your space marines are more likely to be armed with maces or hammers (or crowbars) for hard targets. $\endgroup$ – Mark Jan 26 '18 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ I could see a variety of melee weapons being used, each one with a special purpose. Considering it's the year 3000, there are a number of tricks that could be put into the sword. Having just the basic weapon when you have the technology to give it surprises would be a waste. Making it electrified and being able to make it blunt or razor sharp in seconds would help with crowd control. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke Jan 26 '18 at 6:38
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    $\begingroup$ Rondel daggers by all means. It would be truly unfortunate to come to a corridor fight armed with a zweihänder... similarly to what happened, for instance, to Stewart in Kidnapped by R.L.Stevenson: “I must stick to the point,” he said, shaking his head; “and that’s a pity, too. It doesn’t set my genius, which is all for the upper guard.[...] $\endgroup$ – NofP Jan 26 '18 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Right. Also, "swords" come in an amazing variety of lengths, breadths, shapes and sizes. I think a lot of the comments downplaying the sword either as an elite weapon or as a needlessly long and unwieldy one rather miss the mark.I'm thinking of a sword no longer than about a 45cm blade with a good solid handle, kind of like an 1831 artillery sword, perhaps with the brass knuckles of a US1918 trench knife. Good for poking, hacking, bashing and cracking, when all else fails and all depending on the circumstances and skill of the wielder. Not everyone with a sword is a knight, after all! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 27 '18 at 2:30

Same reason we have bayonets and trench knives. Sometimes you run out of ammo, damage your primary weapon or drop it, and sometimes close quarters and speed require them.

Also stealth reasons, the classic laser beam points straight back to the shooter and may not be immediately lethal depending where you hit and doesn't cause massive bleeding, but chopping off your opponents head is definitely lethal. Slashes may not kill immediately but they don't cauterise the wound as they hit so massive hemorrhaging is just as lethal.

Intimidation, a sword or knife is a very intimidating weapon. If terror is part of your military strategy then a few examples of hacked to pieces bodies would be pretty terrifying.

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    $\begingroup$ The training bill for using edged weapons is actually fairly significant, particularly for weapons which typically account for only a small fraction of battlefield injuries. And having studies swordsmanship myself, the training bill to become proficient is much higher than bayonet or knife fighting. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 26 '18 at 4:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Thucydides Yep, sword would be a poor choice, stabbing weapons like knives are better. But a sword is much more intimidating and still in use today. Every soldier in modern armies has a knife as far as I know. Training can be minimal. Sword is a prestige weapon. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Jan 26 '18 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ I think it would come down to how frequently does a melee weapon need to used and why it's used. Regular troops getting knife training makes sense, why waste time on a sword when they won't need it. But if you have space marines regularly boarding ships or space stations and using intimidation as much as lethal force to take control, swords would be useful. Pirates or smugglers might think they can get the jump on an armoured opponent with a knife by using numbers, but a sword, as Kilisi said, might make make them decide that begging a judge for mercy is a better option. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke Jan 26 '18 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ In the modern military officers carry swords on parade ("prestige") but no one seriously expects an officer to carry a sword into battle. Soldiers' knives are generally utility knives, and used for a multitude of tasks. To effectively use a weapon of any sort effectively, much time needs to be spent on training and practice, a person using a knife without proper training is more likely to be killed or injured. And even people with knives can use better alternatives, Corporal Dipprasad Pun fought Taliban with the tripod of his machine gun when out of ammunition, not his Kukri knife. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 26 '18 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides can't understand why the medieval chaps carried swords and knives instead of a tripod shaped gadget... if only they had known. And WW1 and WW2 soldiers wouldn't have needed trenchknives (not a utility tool, it's a killing weapon) Actually I'd prefer a knife for close quarters, and a talavalu or similar rather than a sword if fighting multiple people, but I have no sword training. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Jan 26 '18 at 5:14

1) It's dangerous to use the kinds of weapons you are talking about because science. For the same reasons you would not use a flame weapon at a gas station. It's not conducive to anyone's survival.

2) Shortages, both regulatory and/or apocalyptic in nature. There might be hand laser weapons, but getting your hands on the power-packs is very difficult. You can jury rig something, but it isn't going to last. Best save it for emergencies.

3) Security Alert!! The second a weapon that's high tech fires, BAM, the feds are there. Security tech locks on your position pretty much instantly, trapping you. with a bladed weapon at least there's a chance. This can be a planetwide automated system controlled by an AI, which nobody can do anything about, so they have to work around it. Or it can be something that's developed for the battlefield, a lock targeting system that makes laser weapons a bad, bad idea.

4) Treaties. Hear me out here. Mutually assured destruction...While there are laser weapons, an agreement is in place. Anyone uses them, they become the bad guys and alliances are formed against them.

5) War is actually thought of as a game, by those higher up. It's a gentleman's agreement to use blades.

6) Lazer guns destroy the value of something that needs captured. Might be tech, might be something else (like nature). Along the lines of delicate tech being around like in elemtilas' answer.


Because they are better in some situations?

Basically you start by giving the laser weapons some major drawback that makes them useless in some situations. And yes, this is the generic form of the Frank Herbert explanation. But it can't be really helped since the military will not waste time training soldiers to use something unless it superior to their other weapons in a some situations.

Fortunately we can narrow it down some by noting that people would still have access to the guns we currently have, so apart from some speculative superiority over hypothetical future weapons of unknown properties they also need to outperform weapons we know about and understand.

There are some obvious things mostly already mentioned by others. No need for ammunition, can be used silently and without a visible flash, harder to break thru abuse or lack of maintenance, training itself might be beneficial, vastly reduced chance of collateral damage and some defensive ability without damage to opponent.

Unfortunately non of these really justify a sword. Any melee weapon can do. In practice a knife is more convenient to carry and if it can be affixed to your laser rifle works as a spear which is superior to a sword in most cases where a knife is not. An axe is also possibility as it is a useful tool in wooded areas.

As also already noted by others it is practical to use hardware you are already carrying anyway as a melee weapon. A laser rifle can be robust enough to use as a club. A shovel (or a tripod) can be used as an improvised club or even mace. Training soldiers in such use would generally be more useful than adding another weapon for them to carry.

And if your army is aggressive about melee training to increase aggression or physical conditioning they can actually modify their hardware to be more usable.

If you train soldiers to use the rifle as a basis for a melee weapon, you will design the rifle to be robust enough to handle that. You will add the hand grips to make the rifle easy to swing as a mace. Attachment to affix a blade so you get a short spear is cheap and obvious. But a weapon might have striking surface for swung use as well. Bit of hardening would make a good mace. Affix a cutting blade and you have an axe. Albeit not a particularly good one.

Typically, Ithink the main point of going that far would be to condition to soldiers to keep fighting even when they cannot use their rifle.


Ace Levy: Sir, I don't understand. What good's a knife in a nuke fight? All you have to do is press a button, sir.

Career Sergeant Zim: Put your hand on that wall, trooper. PUT YOUR HAND ON THAT WALL!

Career Sergeant Zim: The enemy cannot press a button if you have disabled his hand. Medic!

starship troopers.



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